Hector (Andre Khabazzi) snorts a bump of special K and frantically attempts to make love to himself in his full-length mirror. His kisses are returned by just the taste of glass — cold, hard and unfeeling. It’s a moment of less-than-ordinary tragedy that may be the battery of Circuit.

At first look, Circuit seems to follow the standard plot line of soft-core porn, using light-gauge narrative to jump between low-voltage scenes of gratuitous beefcake sexploitation. Soft-core inherently has a high potential for problems if not handled deftly (and director Dirk Shafer doesn’t handle things deftly). Circuit’s plot lines between its sexy scenes just build frustration rather than the intended anticipation — and their voltage, however low, overpowers to distraction any narrative, artistic elements or pretensions.

A distracted view through the looking glass of the circuit scene and its thinly veiled viciousness is what Shafer offers us — as well as trips down the “K-hole.” These West LA all-male, all-night dance parties are fueled by pumping house beats and the Circuit Boys’ drug of choice, special K (a mild psychedelic taken for its out-of-body trips). Looks are the prime element here. All of Circuit’s pretty boys (most could be designer-underwear models) are pathologically preoccupied with their own images obsessively and compulsively gazing at themselves.

But unlike the looking glass that Hector (more than all the others) fails to reach himself in — or the mirrors that the boys snort their K from to forget the constantly painful anxiety of their self-alienation — Circuit is fractured. It’s a four-ring circus of romance, tragedy and, in some cases, redemption played out by its main characters. In better hands, it could have been a powerful ensemble piece. Here, its energy is drained into its beefcake and its ineffectual hopping from storyline to storyline. It plays out like a pastiche of episodes of “The E! True Hollywood Story.” Circuit ends up shorting out.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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